See and avoid and NORDO

I fly out of 63C in central Wisconsin. Nice open country, a non-controlled field, and generally no traffic issues.

Last summer I was out just cruising around the county burning some gas and enjoying a fine day. Very little wind, and no bumps thanks to a high cloud layer. I had been out for an hour or so and was coming in for a 45deg entry to the pattern for 33 when I saw a small tail dragger at our gas pump. This wasn't unusual since we are known as a low cost gas stop and people come in all the time. I saw him walking around his plane as I turned down wind called my intentions on the CTAF. I thought there'd be no problem. I did a normal pattern (making all my calls) but as I turned final his plane pulled out onto the runway and begin accelerating down 15. Sure enough his tail came up and he became airborne coming right at me. I powered up, dropped a notch of flap, and pulled away from the runway. He went by and turned NE leveling at about 500AGL. I was so flustered that I didn't think to check for numbers, or follow him (I still had pleanty of gas). After landing I told a couple of others who happened to be around about it and they all said that they didn't know who he was, but that he comes in 2-3 times a year, gasses up and leaves. Never talks to anyone, never comes inside. They said his numbers are small and right on the tail, but no one knows who he is and evidently he has no radio, and doesn't check the pattern before flying.

Since then I keep an eye out for him, and anyone else, and am much more cautious when there is someone else on the ground when I'm flying, or flying when I'm on the ramp.


  • Mike H, that's a good lesson for all of us. I know that I don't check the full length of the runway when I'm on base leg and sometimes final as well if I've made a poor approach. I'll remember your story next time I turn final and it would also be a good idea to give the whole runway a good glance on base as well. A lot of you veteran pilots probably figured that out long ago, but I'm pretty new so a lesson learned. Thanks.

    Also, your exerience reminds me of an old story/joke that the late comedian Orson Bean used to tell. He said he was on a small plane coming into Karachi airport and the pilot called in for landing instructions. The conversation went something like this.

    Pilot: Karachi tower this is flight 1234 inbound for landing.
    ATC: (In an East Indian dialect) Ooh, welcome flight 1234. We are very happy to have you here. No one has landed here since last Thursday.
    Pilot: Roger, Karachi tower. Request landing instructions.
    ATC: Ooh the winds are calm, you can land anywhere you like. We are just so happy to have you here. We haven't had anyone visit since last Thursday.
    Pilot: Umm..okay. Karachi tower we will enter base for Runway 16 if that's alright.
    ATC: Ooh sure sure, that will be just fine. We haven't anyone land since last Thursday.
    Pilot: Flight 1234 turning final for 16...??!!...Karachi tower there is someone taking off on 34 and he's heading straight at us!!!!!!

    Thanks for the heads up, Mike H.

  • Orson Bean. There's a blast from the past. As a youngster, I watched countless episodes of "What's My Line" with O.B. and Kitty Carlisle.

    Flying back to my towered home base on Friday, the controller kept alerting me to traffic landing ahead of me, but I never spotted it. It's hard enough to see and avoid with help from ATC, let alone watching out for NORDOs. Good reminder to keep one's head on a swivel no matter where you are.
  • Had a similar situation many years ago landing at Muskogee Davis airport. Listen to the CTAF prior to arrival and determined traffic was using 31. Did my routine calls and no other traffic on frequency, at not talking. I called short final and then landing Rwy 31 Muskogee Davis. I crossed the threshhold and was flairing when I heard a Cessna call landing Rwy 13 Muskogee Davis. I was just touching down and I got off as quickly as possible. Whew!

    AS for What's My Line, don't forget Dorothy Killgallon and Bennett Cerf.
  • About 8 months ago I had to come back Nordo to our medium activity field. I knew the winds, observed traffic from above & entered cautiously, only one under movement at the time. I was ready to go around at any time. My radio quit & has since been fixed.

    I always tune up the CTAF 15-20 miles out, or so, to get a handle on who's where, & coming in. I listen for 10 miles or so before I start to talk. Regardless, one has to keep their eyes peeled for traffic, birds & all the rest.
  • I have found that different airports have different personalities and certainly the resident pilots have different personalities. I just purchased my Arrow last September and there was no hanger space at the airport I wanted to keep her at, so I put her in a hanger at an airport we will call KAFU (some will get that). There are lots of NORDO's housed there and lots of seasoned veterans flying them. I really enjoyed the activity and while getting the hanger ready for the day I picked up my Arrow would even sit in a lawn chair to watch all the tail dragers and biplanes flying about.

    I picked the Arrow up and then promptly had to leave for a business trip which was followed by a couple weeks of non flying weather so I was excited to get her out of the barn. My first time out I watched closely for traffic in the pattern while taxing out, then again after my run-up I looked hard to see if anyone was there, made my announcements but heard nothing on the radio. Just as I pulled onto the runway I saw a Champ turning from base to final about 500' from the end of the runway. Unfortunately my Arrow doesn't have reverse so my options were to sit there broadside to a landing aircraft or count on out accelerating the slower Champ. I either out ran him or he aborted the landing. A few days later I am at the field and I walked out of hanger to see a 195 taking off to the west then after only a minute I hear the same aircraft screaming down the runway at about 50' heading east. I knew then I needed to get the heck out of there and was lucky enough to have a hanger offered to me at my first choice airport. I didn't need that much excitement in my life.
  • And of course one doesn't NEED a radio to operate at an uncontrolled field, many will add planes fly just fine without a radio. That does work, most of the time. A simple handheld doesn't cost much, and especially when hooked to an A/C mounted antenna works just fine. I have an FTA-230 as a backup, works great. I even flew into Oshkosh last Summer while my real radio was getting fixed.
  • As you say, it may work fine, but my anxiety level would be very high.

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

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